Big data: a key factor at the beginning of the supply chain
Big data can create huge business benefits in process industries – but for this to happen, your organization needs to understand the impact and the transformation that is needed. Jacqui Taylor, CEO of FlyingBinary, explains why people are the key for the Internet of Things (IoT).
“Material handling is a key factor in process industries, such as steel or automotive, because it is at the beginning of the supply chain. In order to reap the benefits of IoT, you first have to plant the data seed”, Jacqui Taylor begins.
In order to make the best use of IoT in a sector like this, it is important to understand your organization and how ready it is to embrace IoT. In order to gain the value from IoT, it is important to understand data. How data literate is your organization? How mature are you at handling data and driving the value from data? These are important issues to consider.
“Data is a key resource, but having data doesn’t get you anywhere. Lots of companies will tell you that they’re drowning in data, but they have no information. What you’re doing with the data is the key”.
One component of that is sensor data and the immediacy it allows, for example by creating live data streams and basing key decisions on that data. This change is essential to reap the benefits for material handling and the transformation of the supply chain, because it helps in understanding the heartbeat of processes and contains the key to delivering the efficiencies of real-time data streams.
Big data technology can also deliver evidence of the challenges that are currently unknown in an organization, it will highlight the key areas of focus to gain maximum benefits for moving into this new arena. This allows a board to change strategy and to drive innovation, Taylor says.
Articulating the art of the possible
Big data also starts to transform the organization.
“People are the key. You have an organization that is set up to do one thing, and that legacy has set up the current supply chain, however people understand the inefficiencies of this and with data can use their domain knowledge to spot the opportunities for change, once they have the data. Ultimately sensors and the changes for IoT need to be embedded across the supply chain, but you can’t change all of this at once, but you can’t ignore it either, data allows you to select the best area of focus”, Taylor says.
To create the change that is needed, people need an understanding of which direction to take and why. This comes down to changing mindsets and being able to articulate what is possible to achieve, with the help of big data technology.
“Data is a key resource, but having data doesn’t get you anywhere. Lots of companies will tell you that they’re drowning in data, but they have no information. What you’re doing with the data is the key”
“You choose wisely where you start and what you do, and you do it with confidence. It’s not only about the process in the organization itself and what you’re creating with materials, but also your impact on the ongoing supply chain. The technology on its own is there, but the question is what can do with it and how you’re going to explain the impact and the transformation that is needed in the organization. So it’s a strategic approach more than something that is missing”.
Change can of course confuse or scare people. Therefore Taylor suggests starting with a pilot plan to create an understanding of what is possible. Looking at a specific project or proof of concept, the understanding then goes into the organization of the challenge that has been solved and the opportunity that exists.
“If you enable people to understand, then they will take those steps – not everybody, you do need the right people to make this transition. If we’re going to change something, you need to understand why. But if we don’t understand what the problem we’re solving is, change won’t be transformative”.
Moving towards results
If you understood what the possibilities were, and the competitive advantages this brings, organizations would rush to do them. To put this in context, Hollywood current invests in a movie with a return of x 3 for every dollar invested. Our clients have evidenced that for every £1 invested in this approach the return is between £2 and £40. Taylor explains.
“Officially, now we’re in a world where we have done digital, and the industrial internet is next. Those people who are going to lead this whole concept will rise above the competition in all sectors by having game changing access to and understanding of the data for the industrial internet. You can’t underestimate the importance material handling will have in this, because it is the beginning of the supply chain. The companies that are involved in this sector have a huge opportunity to make a difference”.
According to Taylor, using big data technology to construct the supply chain in a new way allows you to put your focus on the customer in a way that has never been possible before.
“For example, manufacturing is a global business, and with IoT and Big Data across the supply chain it is possible to understand the bottlenecks and opportunities which exist for any product being manufactured anywhere in the world. Using data from sensors through the production process would mean any delay in the delivery components or raw materials, or an extreme weather event would enable supply chain data to be re configured, allowing pre-production and production processes to be moved to new schedules, “inflight“.
“Whilst there is an opportunity to use big data across many sectors such as construction and advanced manufacturing the fact that you can say, as a material handler, what’s possible and what’s not, is because you’re at the beginning of the supply chain, the rest of the supply chain can’t do that. This makes a material handling business responsive, and it allows for big data to really start delivering on its promise for organizations ready to embrace this paradigm shift”.
The downside of this new approach is that it means using different technologies than those the organization is familiar with. This is not necessarily a problem – it just shows that there needs to be a shared understanding in the organization that in order to get to the benefits, you need big data technologies, Taylor says.
And this, again, brings the people into the spotlight.
Jacqui Taylor is the founder and CEO of FlyingBinary, a web science company that changes the world with data.
Image credit: © morganimation – Fotolia.com